Tag Archives: Italy Travel

What Makes Venice Special? Top Interesting Facts About Italy’s Floating City.

Venice is a historical treasure, a living breathing city that changed very little over the centuries and that boasts an extensive and impressive history. Beyond that, it is a very curious place, the only one of its kind, built entirely on the water, which creates myths and legends, and brings to mind many questions. While tourists from around the world flock to the city to admire the beautiful architecture, the breathtaking canals, and the amazing art-packed churches- few visit the city with any historical insight at hand. For this reason, we’ve compiled answers to questions that you’ve probably had about Venice, or perhaps will have during your visit- in an effort to equip you with information that will help enhance your cultural trip.

The Venice of today is, above all, a brief glimpse into an opulent and elegant time where the economy of the Western world relied on shipping and merchants. The city remains as authentic as possible, and buildings are preserved with the intention of leaving the city in its original glory. As you explore the city, the answers we provide below may help you understand certain conventions, and shed light on certain characteristics of Venice.

1. How and why was Venice founded?

Venice Old Map Of The City

Venice was officially founded, according to historical records, on March 25th of year 421 AD with the opening of its first church, San Giacomo, in the area called Rialto (from Venetian “Rivoalto”, or high shore). The Northeastern corner of Italy was, at the time, suffering from a series of barbarian invasions. The Barbarian invasion was a particularly brutal time for local residents, as the invading clans besieged entire cities and terrorized the population, who had previously lived peacefully under the lawful and orderly Roman Empire.

In fear, these people fled to the practically inaccessible marshlands in the Adriatic part of the modern Veneto region, that in Roman times were populated by people called Veneti. The place became known as Venexia in local Venetian dialect, or Venetiae, in Latin, and eventually transformed into Venice in the English language. These marshlands in shallow Venetian lagoon were impossible for barbarians to navigate and thus provided a reliable shelter for the refugees albeit in a very inhospitable environment. Originally a community of fisherman whose main trade besides fishing was salt, Venice grew as new arrivals from the mainland kept coming uprooted by the new waves of barbarians sweeping Italian lands. Venice was, therefore, a haven for refugees. It was, in time, built with understanding of the necessity of the rule of law, the desire to develop commerce, and the drive to succeed typical for immigrant communities. This eventually led to the well-established legal system, the elected government headed by the Doge, and checks and balances built into the system to avoid corruption. The lack of land further helped Venice avoid the destiny of other European states with their backward feudal systems and ascent of the landed nobility. It was above all a commercial society that flourished on trade and friendly foreign relations. In other words, its political and economic systems were far more advanced than of any of other Western European states at the time, and were even studied carefully by the founding fathers in the U.S. as one of the very few examples of a working democracy, even if imperfect.
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5 Great Movies Filmed In Venice That You Should See

Venice is a wonderfully scenic city, rich with dramatic architecture and a unique culture, a favorite of famous artists and writers, and a place that is unbelievably picturesque and photogenic. For this reason, since the advent of cinema many production companies have chosen the city as a stunning backdrop for a variety of films, and audiences worldwide are able to enjoy the beauty of Venice unfolding alongside dynamic story lines from the comfort of their homes.

Ranging from Hollywood blockbusters such as The Tourist, to cinematic renditions of literary classics such as the Merchant Of Venice, there is no shortage of Venetian-themed movies for you to enjoy. For your convenience, we have compiled a thorough selection of great movies, that beautifully depict Venice and take full advantage of its diverse setting. If you have not seen them all, we highly recommend that you watch them soon.

The Tourist

Venice Boat on Grand Canal

‘The Tourist’ is a thrilling movie, a mix of romance, suspense, and thriller, starring both Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. The film revolves around an American tourist wonderfully portrayed by Johnny Depp, who meets gorgeous Elise played by Angelina Jolie, on a trip to Venice. Frank is heartbroken, and his misery starkly contrasts the beauty of Venice. Meanwhile, Elise deliberately crosses paths with Frank in a mysterious turn of events, that plays out across the narrow alleyways and dark corners of this unique city that is romantic and hauntingly dramatic at once.

The Tourist takes full advantage of all that Venice has to offer. Audiences will grab onto their seats during high-energy boat chases across the canals, delight in the gorgeous actors playing characters crisscrossing the streets of the small city, and enjoy the rare inside looks the interior of Venetian palaces that shine in all their former glory. The movie is set in modern times, but the elegant complexity of the storyline pays tribute to an opulent Venice of the past. This is a must see for movie fans, lovers of Venice and those who value beautiful backdrops to excellent stories.

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Top 5 Things To See And Do On Murano Island

While Venice is a beautiful and wonderfully diverse city, it’s also rather small. After a number of days spent wondering through the stunning corridors that crisscross the the city and admiring art, you may feel inclined to visit one of the smaller islands that surround Venice, such as Murano, Burano, or Torcello.

Of course we can’t be impartial when it comes to choosing a Venetian island to visit, and we wholeheartedly recommend Murano – the home of the most beautiful glassware in the world and the place to experience true Venetian lifestyle of the bygone era. Murano is a tiny island in the Venetian lagoon, just north of Venice proper. Renowned for its glassmaking tradition, the island boasts a population of 5,000 people, many of whom are direct descendants of famous glassmaking families.

The island is rich with culture and tradition, and was once used as a refuge for Venetian glass-makers, who were forced by governmental officials to leave the city of Venice in the 1291 and establish their furnaces on Murano. For lovers of art, history, fine craftsmanship, or simply for breathtaking views- Murano is definitely a location to consider. here we give you the scoop on the top 5 things to do on Murano island. And, what’s great, you can actually do all of this in one day and still have time left for a nice dinner either right here on Murano or in Venice, a short vaporetto ride away.

Murano Canal

1. Take a Walk Around Town

The island of Murano consists of 7 individual islands linked together by beautiful bridges. While this sounds overwhelming, the whole island actually measures a mere 1 mile, which is easily walkable in 20 minutes.

Much like the city of Venice, Murano has a ‘Canale Grande’ (Grand Canal) that runs down the centre, and separates rows of mirrored buildings. The main and arguably most impressive building on the island is the municipal building, called ‘Palazzo Da Mula’. This dates back to the 13th century, and features a characteristically gothic facade, popular in Venetian architecture. The canals, coupled with the island’s three remaining churches, in addition to the beautiful buildings- are reasons enough to take a walking tour of Murano.
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Five Attractions In Venice Without The Crowds

Five Attractions To See In Venice Without The Crowds
When it comes to organizing a trip to Venice, the itineraries are full of famous attractions that appear on every travel advice website and every must-see list you will ever come across. Among those are The Doge’s Palace, and Basilica San Marco, Accademia Gallery and Ca’ Rezzonico, The Campanile, and The Astronomical Clock. Hunting for those top attractions, you will stand in lines for hours and run into crowds of tourists who are all hungry to see the same things you came to see. This may leave you aggravated, distressed, and wondering what you may have done better to have more authentic Venetian experience. You need not worry – we will let you in on the hidden secrets, the activities that many miss, the attractions that are still relatively quiet, not overrun with tourists, and promise a wonderfully authentic experience.

1. Get To Know Venice’s Craftsmanship: Gondola Building Workshop

Gondola Workshop Venice

Get to know one of the few remaining gondola yards in Venice. Just a few steps down the canal near the Accademia Bridge, one can find Venice’s only remaining original gondola-building and maintenance yard, the Squero San Trovaso workshop. Nowadays it works mainly as a maintenance and repair point, but during the 1600’s it was Venice’s busiest production point for the ten thousand gondolas that once traveled along its canals and into the Lagoon. The squero is not open to the public but if you visit during the working hours you can see the work from the outside, and it is a fascinating experience. Each gondola is made out of eight different types of wood, exactly as it was hundreds of years ago, and includes lots of exclusively carved elements. Because gondolas are still crafted in a traditional way, it takes over a month to build one, and it usually can be in service for about 15 years, after which it must be refinished and can last another ten years. There are woodcarving workshops that create various wooden parts for gondolas and are very interesting to visit to see this ancient craft in action. The workshop of Paolo Brandolisio a few steps behind Piazza San Marco is a great one to visit. There are several guided tours for visitors, like the two-hour Oltrex tour starting from Riva degli Schiavoni, or the one day experience Venice for Children, that encompasses a whole seminar on gondola making and a tour on vaporetto through the Arsenale and the Naval Museum. After getting to know this craft better, one will never see a gondola the same way again, for they are unique custom made vessels with centuries of history and craftsmanship, and no one is identical to another.


2. Get To Know Venice’s Art: Querini Stampalia Museum

Museum Querini Stampalia Venice_Museum

Tucked away in a pretty corner of sestiere Castello is another one of Venice’s hidden jewels, the Querini Stampalia Museum. Born out of the desire to continue and share the knowledge of artistic studies, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia was created in 1869 according to the will of Count Giovanni Querini Stampalia. Having died with no heirs, Querini Stampalia, a prominent member of Venetian nobility, left all his belongings, including a gorgeous Palazzo and amazing library, to the City Of Venice, with the intent of creating a museum open to the public.  That same year the Palazzo was converted to a beautiful museum, where all of Querini-Stampalia’s original interiors, furnishings, and artworks gathered by him and generations of his predecessors, are carefully preserved.  The museum is one of the best house-museums in Europe, offering a peek into the life of Venetian nobility in the eighteenth century, from elaborate salons to elegant bedrooms, complete with frescoes, paintings, and gorgeous decor, including Murano Glass. Venice lovers and history buffs will be blown away by the museum’s unique collection of paintings that depict, in precise detail, the many Venetian celebrations, public events, holidays and historical moments as seen in the eighteenth century. The almost photographic nature of these paintings, along with excellent descriptions available in several languages, allow us to vividly imagine how Venetians lived, what they looked like, how they entertained themselves, and what they cared about centuries ago. Another feature of this museum is its unique library that contains over 350,000 books, and remains open late in the evening and even during holidays, following its founder’s will. Inside Querini-Stampalia living quarters the different artworks on display include paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Pietro Longhi, and Giandomenico Tiepolo, among others, antique Venetian furniture, sculptures, Murano glass chandeliers, mirrors, and decorative glassware, French porcelain, tapestries, and other historic pieces dating all the way back to the XIV century.


3. Explore One Of Venice’s Newer Museums

Punta della Dogana Sculpture in Venice

Punta della Dogana is the site of Venice’s historical naval customs house, or Dogana da Mar. The long Customs building we see today graced with a beautiful sculpture of Atlas holding up the globe, symbolizing the supremacy of Venice, dates from 1682. The Customs house continued to be in operation until 1980’s, becoming a link connecting Venice’s past with its present. After the building stopped being used for this purpose, it was abandoned and had been dilapidated by neglect. Finally, the city of Venice decided to put this building back into use and awarded the tender for renovating the space to François Pinault (French billionaire businessman and avid art collector). In the new hands, this building underwent a glorious restoration by architect Tadao Ando in 2008. The amazing architecture is enough for one to spend a whole morning admiring the place. It has been described as having an “industrial and minimalist soul”, thanks to its polished concrete floors, steel anchors and exposed brick walls. The museum hosts temporary art exhibitions and presents works from Pinault’s own extensive collection.


4. See The Original Venetian Ghetto

Jewish Getto Venice

If one prefers to spend the day strolling along some not-so-crowded streets while learning little-known Venetian history, the Venetian Jewish Ghetto is just the area to visit. Located in the Cannaregio district, this Venetian ghetto is actually the first Jewish ghetto in all of Europe, instituted in March of 1516. Jews were present in Venice as far back as the tenth century though they were not allowed to settle there. Later in 1290, Jewish merchants and moneylenders received permission to work in Venice conditioned upon paying a special 5% tax on their import and export transactions. Finally, forced by the needs for financing brought on by the city’s flourishing commerce, Venice’s government allowed Jewish moneylenders to settle in the city in 1385 and even gave them land to be used as a cemetery. However, attitudes towards Jews were becoming progressively worse over the following two centuries, as the growing prosperity of Jewish residents stoked fears of their influence on Venice’s Christian society. Hence after much deliberation in 1516 Venice’s ruling council decided to confine Jews to a small part of Venice called Ghetto, named after the foundries (getti) that were once located in the area. The most densely populated area of Venice in the centuries past, Ghetto was set up on an island, which provided a natural way to close it up at night and segregate its inhabitants from the rest of Venice. Ghetto features Venice’s tallest buildings where Jewish residents were forced to dwell as their numbers swelled since they were prohibited from settling beyond the confines of this small island. The Ghetto area historically had been divided into two different sections: the New Ghetto, and the Old Ghetto, the former was inhabited by the Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Italy, while the latter was the settlement of the Sephardic Jews from the Levant. This division can turn out to be rather confusing since in the historical sense the New Ghetto is actually older than the “old” one.

Despite the horrendous devastation of Jewish life in Venice brought on by Holocaust, this part of Venice is still the center of Jewish life, although out of only 500 Jewish residents of Venice just 30 still live in the Ghetto. The area offers a peek into the rich history of Jews in Venice, the vibrant society that once sparked the interest of William Shakespeare, who described some of the local Judeo-Christian tensions in his “Merchant Of Venice”. The Ghetto is also a place to enjoy traditional cuisine in a few good kosher-certified restaurants, as well as browse Judaic shops and check out historic synagogues.


5. Find Hidden Gems Among Venetian Churches

Venice Madonna dell'Orto Church

Switching the subject to Venice’s Christian history, in the same Cannaregio district we can also find little-known but very old Madonna dell’Orto Church, a beautiful brickwork construction build in the XIV century. Constructed under the direction of Tiberio da Parma (who is buried inside the church), it was built by the now-defunct religious order of the “Humiliati” and initially dedicated to Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers. Its name would later change, dedicating the church to the Holy Virgin, thanks to a famous statue of a Madonna that was discovered in an orchard (orto) near the church. Its façade shows impressive brickwork walls, while the inside includes a nave and two isles framed with Greek marble columns. The paintings found inside are invaluable: there are a number paintings by renowned Venetian artist Tintoretto, and some works by Bellini and Titian. Tintoretto, who was born in Venice in 1518, had a long and very productive career as a painter in Venice, having executed many paintings and large-scale frescoes in Palazzo Del Doge, numerous churches, and Scuolas. Paintings “Worship of the Golden Calf” and the “Last Judgment” in Madonna Dell’Orto are the ones that brought Tintoretto initial acclaim, setting him on the path to fame and prosperity. While working on his commissions for this church, Tintoretto lived in a small Gothic house next to the church looking out to Fondamenta de Mori, which still stands today. Tintoretto died in 1594 and is buried in Madonna dell’Orto church, next to his beloved daughter Marietta who died four years before him at the age of thirty. The terracotta bust on Tintoretto’s tomb is the work of famous Murano Glass artist and sculptor, Napoleone Martinuzzi, created in 1937.

Venice is a city full of secrets that will surely marvel tourists. There is nothing as charming as walking along Venice’s back alleys and allowing oneself to get lost in the history of the city. It is not only the museums that can offer this but its palaces, its restaurants, its canals, its churches and its people. Venice is a city to be enjoyed in countless ways, we only need to learn where to look.

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Travel Tips for Eating Out in Venice: Where To Eat Like A Local

As exquisite, fresh and wholesome as Venetian cuisine may be, it is unfortunate that many travelers report unpleasant experiences of being ripped off or having bland meals when eating out in Venice. Figuring out where to eat in Venice can easily become a tourist trap for eager visitors who go looking for the most stereotypical meals, and in return get low quality dishes at grossly inflated costs. Venetian cuisine dominated by abundance of seafood is not what travelers typically associate with Italy, yet it is incredibly tasty if you happen to run into the right place. Good coffee can absolutely be enjoyed outside of Piazza San Marco’s expensive restaurants, and freshest seafood you ever tasted can be found in many unassuming local eateries called osterie.

The first and best tip is to avoid any “tourist menus” as they have limited food choices, often not of the freshest kind, and dishes that aim to please tourists en masse rather than offer authentic local experience. These kinds of menus in restaurants situated in crowded touristic areas just concentrate on one-time tourist crowds that will most likely never come back, and therefore pay less attention to quality and exclusivity. It is easy to recognize these places: they all have explicit pictures of every dish, waiters in bow ties loudly inviting customers to come in, and frequently no Italians inside.
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A Day On Murano – Travel Tips for Visiting The Famous Glass Island

No trip to Venice would be complete without a visit to glass paradise, Murano. This small island just a mile away from Venice set pace for fashion and innovation in global glass-making industry for over 700 years. It was on this island that talented artisans turned glassmaking into an art form meant to satisfy even the most exquisite tastes, a story which remains relevant today.Offering not only a network of canals lined with ancient buildings and gorgeous views like the rest of Venice, Murano charms its visitors with many other unique attractions that cannot be found anywhere else.

The island of Murano became home to all of the Venetian glass furnaces in 1291. The risk of fires in the city made of wood along with nascent popularity and importance of glass-making craft, convinced the Doge that Murano was the right place to isolate and guard the workshops from curious eyes eager to steal the secrets of the trade. From then on, Murano name became associated with the most coveted and high quality glass works.
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10 Best Tips for Travel to Italy

The best of Italy - Top Ten Travel Tips

Italy is one of the top countries on every traveler’s bucket list, with over 46 million tourists visiting every year! This is no surprise – with it’s winning mix of history, culture, architecture, natural beauty, cuisine, art and fashion, Italy attracts people with all sorts of interests, from all walks of life. Yet with Italy’s incredible multitude of options comes a challenge – how to balance the different kinds of experiences to make your visit the best it can be? We at GlassOfVenice.com have spent considerable time in Italy, both on our regular merchandising visits and, for some of us, living there. So we decided to compile our ten best Italian travel tips to help all who are interested in Italy to get the most out of their next visit. We hope you will find our advises helpful – please comment and share away!

1. Do not try to cover too much ground in a short time

Italy Tourism

Italy is famous for its cultural and artistic treasures, rich history, natural beauty, great food, fine wines, top fashion and too many other things to list on one page. It is also a big country that consists of multiple regions, each with its own history, culture, and cuisine. So it’s no wonder that Italy is high on the list of every tourist’s “must-see” places and that once there, visitors try to do it all, often in relatively short amount of time. If you are like most tourists and only have one or two weeks at a time to spare, we urge you not to make a mistake of checking off boxes on the “been there done that” list and rushing from city to city and from attraction to attraction. Instead, choose one or two regions, pick just a few towns, spend a few days in each place, take it in, feel its spirit, and resolve to come back later to see more of Italy. Trying to cover a few key cities, such as Venice, Florence and Rome in the first visit is another popular strategy, but you need to be mindful of the time it takes to travel between them and understand that each one is a multifaceted cultural gem that needs several full days to be explored, although even in that time you will only scratch the surface.
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Murano Glass Inspiration for American Artists

dale chihuly garden glassMurano Island in Venice is world-renown for amazing art glass that has evolved from its humble utilitarian beginnings into an art form over the centuries. Part of the reason is the sheer concentration of glass furnaces on the island and the length of time that the artisans have been experimenting and creating, leading to virtuosity in techniques and styles. One of the most famous and oldest glassworks on Murano is Venini, the family that has given the world generations of talented Murano Glass artists. The surprising part, however, is that in the twentieth century Venini glassworks helped create a new breed of masterful and innovative artists, those that were born outside of Murano and even Italy.

In breaking with Murano’s long-standing tradition of shielding the glassmakers’ world from the outsiders, Venini started serving as a learning site for American artists eager to learn the secrets of Murano Glass masters. Over the years, the Venini glass factories have hosted American-born talents such as Thomas Stearns, Dale Chihuly, and Richard Marquis, all of whom ultimately helped expand Murano’s fame far beyond Italy. These prominent artists have traveled to Murano on the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and were fascinated by the medium of glass and the artistic possibilities it offered.. However, although they share a country of origin and a common passion which expanded the boundaries of glass work, they are as different and unique as the handmade glass pieces they produce. Continue reading

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Fulvio Bianconi’s Vision for Contemporary Murano Glass Art

Murano Glass Art Murano Glass Art Figurine
If you find yourself viewing masterful glass works and feel the urge to smile, then odds are you are in the presence of a Fulvio Bianconi design. Famous for producing glass art that celebrates individuality, sensuality, and the light-hearted side of life, Bianconi pieces are still very popular today due to their lively colors, dynamic shapes, and the enduring popularity of his pezzato style.

An artistic prodigy, Bianconi began apprenticing at Murano Glass furnaces as young as sixteen. He later used his amusing style and undeniable talent to consult on and produce cartoons for the Italian Ministry of Popular Culture, until the end of World War II. However, it wasn’t long before the island of Murano and the glass furnaces of his youth called on him, and in 1947 the prominent Murano Glass master Paolo Venini hired him as a designer for a series of perfume glass bottles. The financial independence granted to him by his work as a graphic designer  allowed him to dedicate an ample amount of time to freelance work for Venini, which yielded works characteristic of his free spirited and playful style. This did not sit well with the glass artisans at Murano initially. The trademark of a gifted glass artisan in Murano at the time was the ability to perfectly recreate a style or design, and their celebration of flawless repetition could not have been farther from Bianconi’s perception of what constituted mastery, beauty and technique. Bianconi is credited as saying, “…the artistic glass has to be unique, if it is repeated it loses its charm…” Continue reading

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Easter Traditions in Italy

Easter_Doves 
Easter is an important time in Italy, not only from religious, but also from spiritual and family perspective. Learning more about Italian celebrations and events around Easter time and getting to know the traditions so meaningful and dear to Italians will bring you richer cultural experience when you travel to Italy. Continue reading

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